By Lisa L. Price
Robbie Heyes of Ware, Mass., would do well to become a postman. Undeterred by torrential rains, he sloshed afield on Dec. 11, 2004, to encounter one of the best bucks ever yielded by Massachusetts. Photo Courtesy of Robert D. Heyes.
The first time that Robbie Heyes encountered a real Massachusetts wallhanger, back in 2003, a misfire rained on the 20-year-old's parade. The following year, it was indeed the rain, not his deer gun, which doused the young man.
The misfire came when Robbie was slipping quietly through a swamp. He'd unknowingly wandered within 30 feet of a bedded 10-pointer. When it rose and tried to sneak away, Robbie shouldered his muzzleloader, braced for the blast and squeezed the trigger.
Instead of a boom, however, he heard only a soft click. The gun never went off, but the buck did.
"I thought about it all the time after that," Robbie said. "Every time we hunted in that area, I went to that spot - my favorite - and thought about that day."
The following year, Robbie planned his vacation around the December shotgun season so that he and his dad, Don, could hunt every day.
The first two days were a bust. The third, Dec. 11, didn't begin much better.
Although it was only drizzling as Robbie scooped up his gear for the drive to his father's house, it was a full-blown downpour by the time the two were on the road.
Photo Courtesy of Robert D. Heyes
It didn't matter. Rain or shine, they weren't about to miss out on an opportunity to hunt. But they did choose to do it closer to home, about a half-hour away. It was raining even harder when they arrived.
On the very real chance that one of them might decide to throw in the soggy towel, they both carried radios.
Don dropped off his son and drove a little farther. Robbie started down the familiar swamp trail, headed for his favorite spot, the place where his muzzleloader had misfired the previous year.
He found shelter from the elements under a pine tree, set out some scent and blew some grunts out into the rain. After about an hour, he got a radio call from his dad, who was soaked and ready to leave. Robbie was still relatively dry, but knowing his dad was miserable, he acquiesced and began hiking slowly back to the road.
As soon as he stepped out from under the pine boughs, he was pummeled by the rain. Although visibility was almost zero, he was constantly looking along both sides of the sodden trail.
Wait ... Were those antlers? Were they moving?
He moved closer and squinted against the downfall. Finally, from 50 yards, he could pick out the rack and body of a big buck, but he didn't have a good shot.
While the deer was unaware of his presence, the hunter braced against a large tree and whistled sharply.
The buck moved slightly, exposing its shoulder, and began turning its head toward the sound. That's when Robbie pulled the trigger.
Afterward, he radioed his dad, saying, "Hurry up. I just shot a whopper!"
Don, figuring his son might be telling a whopper, cracked that he'd heard that line before, but he was on his way. When he got there, the two men walked to the deer.
"I didn't know how big it was until we walked up on it. I'd waited until my dad was there so we could check it out at the same time," Robbie said. "When we got to it, we gave each other the high-five and hugged. It felt real good."
Shooting a monstrous buck did feel good, especially since Robbie and Don figured their chances of collecting a trophy were slim since moving to Massachusetts from Nebraska a couple of years earlier. That father and son were there together, however, meant far more to Robbie.
"It was so great to be with my dad that day because I enjoy hunting with him.
He taught me everything I know, and I love him," Robbie said. "Every deer I've shot has been while hunting with Dad. He's my best friend, and I would spend every day I can in the woods with him."
Hunter: Robert D. Heyes
Official Score: 175 6/8"
Composite Score: 196 3/8"
-- Reprinted from the December 2007 issue of Buckmasters RACK Magazine